John Volanthen

John Paul Volanthen

June 1971 (age 52)
Brighton, Sussex, England
EducationDe Montfort University
OccupationIT consultant
Known forCave diving, cave rescue

John Paul Volanthen, GM (born June 1971) is a British cave diver who undertakes cave rescues through the Cave Rescue Organisation, South and Mid Wales Cave Rescue, and the British Caving Association. In 2018, he played a leading role in the Tham Luang cave rescue. He cave-dives as a hobby and conducts rescues as a volunteer. He works as an IT consultant in Bristol.[1]

Early life and education

Volanthen was born in June 1971,[2] and grew up in Brighton, England.[1] Volanthen's surname is an anglicised spelling of the Swiss surname "Vonlanthen" — his paternal grandfather was Swiss.[3] He attended Longhill High School[4] in Rottingdean, and later De Montfort University in Leicester where he studied electronics.[5]

Caving and rescues

Early interest

Volanthen's interest in caving began when he was a scout.[6] He began cave diving through a social club when he attended college.[citation needed]


Volanthen frequently cave dives and conducts rescues with a partner, Richard Stanton. He was part of a team that attempted a cave rescue of Eric Establie in 2010, in the Dragonnière Gaud Cave near Labastide-de-Virac in the Ardèche region of France, which was ultimately unsuccessful.[7][8] In 2011, Volanthen assisted in the recovery of the body of Polish cave diver Artur Kozłowski from a cave in Kiltartan, Ireland.[9] Norwegian authorities asked him to assist in recovering the bodies of two Finnish divers from Jordbrugrotta in 2014, but after diving down to the site he and his colleagues assessed the operation to be too risky.[10] The bodies were subsequently recovered by Finnish and Norwegian divers.

In 2018, he helped locate a youth football team in the Tham Luang cave rescue; he and Stanton were the first to make contact with them.[11][12] Poor visibility, cave and rescue debris, and low temperatures were all obstacles to cave diving in search of the team. Volanthen placed guidelines in the cave to assist others in navigation. After he ran out of line, he swam to the surface - there he found the missing team and the adult coach.[13] Volanthen's voice is that heard on a widely broadcast video of the first contact with the football team, asking "How many of you?" When he learned that all the missing people were accounted for, he replied, "Brilliant."[1] He and Stanton did not have any food to offer the team when they encountered them, but they gave them a light. When they left the team, Volanthen promised them that he would come back, doing so by assisting in delivering food.[14]

Volanthen disputed the notion that encountering the team was due to luck, saying that he and Stanton systematically surfaced at every airspace in the flooded cave passages to shout and listen for a response, as well as to smell for any indicators of human waste signifying the current or past presence of the team. They smelled the team before they saw them. Volanthen also assisted in rescuing members of the team; the children were sedated and then lashed to the divers. Parts of the cave were so narrow that the children were pushed in front of the divers. At other times, the children were held close to the chest or out to the side. Volanthen said that the children were held as if carrying a "shopping bag."[14]

In a BBC interview after the rescue, Volanthen was asked, "Can you see that what you did was fairly remarkable?" He responded, "I can see it was a first, how's that?"[14]


In 2004, Volanthen and Stanton set a record for the greatest depth achieved in a British cave, diving 76 m (249 ft) at Wookey Hole in Somerset.[15] In 2010, Volanthen, Stanton, Jason Mallinson, and René Houben set a world record for the longest cave penetration dive, reaching 8,800 m (28,900 ft) in the Pozo Azul cave system in the Rudrón Valley in Spain.[16]


Volanthen designs and constructs some of his own diving equipment, and has been called a "technical guru."[17] He designed a mapping device that collects information while diving.[18] He also designs and modifies his own rebreathers to increase their compactness and efficiency.[17]

Awards and honours

Volanthen was awarded the Royal Humane Society's bronze medal in 2012 for a rescue attempt of a diver in a French cave, and for the discovery of the diver's body.[19]

In September 2018, he was given the Bronze Cross, The Scout Association's highest honour, awarded for "heroism or action in the face of extraordinary risk."[20]

In November 2018, Volanthen and five other members of the British cave rescue team were given the Pride of Britain 2018 award for "Outstanding Bravery" for the Tham Luang incident. The rescued children attended the award ceremony, in London.[21]

In the 2019 New Year Honours, Volanthen and Stanton were awarded the George Medal (GM) for their roles at Tham Luang.[22][23] Three other members of their team were made Members of the Order of the British Empire and two were awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal.[23] Volanthen was also awarded the Royal Humane Society's Stanhope Medal for his role in the rescue.[24]


Personal life

As a hobby, Volanthen runs marathons and ultramarathons.[1] He is also a volunteer scout leader with the Somerset Scouts, taking children on cave excursions.[25] He was formerly married to Annabelle Richards.[5]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d "Thailand cave rescue: The Brits who helped find the boys". BBC News. BBC. 3 July 2018. Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  2. ^ "John Paul VOLANTHEN". Retrieved 7 July 2018.
  3. ^ Price, Duncan (2010). "Full Circle". In Hanwell, J.; Price, D.; Witcombe, R. (eds.). Wookey Hole: 75 Years of Cave Diving & Exploration (PDF). Cave Diving Group. ISBN 978-0901031075.
  4. ^ "Queen presents Brighton diver with George Medal for Thai cave rescue". 26 February 2019. Retrieved 24 July 2019.
  5. ^ a b Yohannes Lowe; Victoria Ward; Francesca Marshall (3 July 2018). "Thai cave rescue: mother of hero diver speaks of pride but warns 'it's not over yet'". The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group Limited. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 4 July 2018.
  6. ^ Rudd, Matt (1 December 2013). "The cavern club". The Times. Times Newspapers Limited. Retrieved 4 July 2018.
  7. ^ "South and Mid Wales experts join Ardeche cave rescue". BBC News. BBC. 11 October 2010. Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  8. ^ "Cave explorer found dead after dramatic eight-day search". france24 News. france24. 12 October 2010. Retrieved 7 July 2018.
  9. ^ Siggins, Lorna (12 September 2011). "British rescue team recovers body of missing cave diver". The Irish Times. Retrieved 4 July 2018.
  10. ^ Kremer, William (9 May 2016). "The cave divers who went back for their friends". BBC News. Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  11. ^ "British divers Richard Stanton and John Volanthen at the heart of the Thai cave rescue". 4 July 2018. Retrieved 22 July 2018 – via
  12. ^ "Meet the British 'A-team' divers at the center of Thailand cave rescue". Washington Post. 3 July 2018. Retrieved 26 April 2019.
  13. ^ Richard C. Paddock; Muktita Suhartono (3 July 2018). "Thailand cave rescue turns to how to extract trapped soccer team". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 July 2018.
  14. ^ a b c Jonathan Head (Correspondent) (13 July 2018). John Volanthen Interview Thailand Caves. BBC. Archived from the original on 17 November 2021. Retrieved 14 July 2018.
  15. ^ "Thailand cave rescue: 'Best of the best' enlisted to find boys and coach". NZME. 3 July 2018. Retrieved 4 July 2018.
  16. ^ "Records and Aquatic Superlatives". Diving Almanac. Diving Almanac & Book of Records. 3 July 2018. Archived from the original on 11 January 2020. Retrieved 4 July 2018.
  17. ^ a b Farr, Martyn (2017). The Darkness Beckons: The History and Development of World Cave Diving. Vertebrate Graphics Limited. ISBN 978-1910240748.
  18. ^ "Rick Stanton continues Ressel Cave Exploration in April 2012 powered by Bonex Discovery RS". BONEXEXPLORATIONSSYSTEME. Bonex GmbH & Co. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  19. ^ Royal Humane Society (2012). Annual Report 2012 (PDF) (Report). Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 April 2019. Retrieved 4 July 2018.
  20. ^ "Thai cave diver John Volanthen awarded highest Scout honour". BBC. 13 September 2018. Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  21. ^ "Displaying items by tag: 2018 – Pride of Britain Awards". Pride of Britain. Retrieved 6 November 2018.
  22. ^ "Civilian Gallantry List: 2019". GOV.UK. Retrieved 29 December 2018.
  23. ^ a b "Honours for Thai cave rescue divers". BBC News. 28 December 2018.
  24. ^ "Stanhope Awardees". Royal Humane Society. Retrieved 20 December 2023.
  25. ^ Somerset Scouts. "Congratulations to Somerset Scouts' caving lead volunteer – Jon Volanthen – and his colleagues". Facebook. Retrieved 9 July 2018.